Coated String Shootout

Posted on October 4, 2010


The next time you head out to the store for guitar strings you may notice more options.  Many companies are now offering coated strings that claim to last up to 5x longer than your current set.  I sat down with a pile of guitars and strings to put their claims to the test.  Here are the strings I checked out and my thoughts.

Cleartone Treated EMP Phosphor Bronze 12-53
Web:  Street Price: $15
I was pleasantly surprised to find, like D’addario, these strings come sealed in a plastic bag inside the cardboard box.  If my opinion holds any water to you, I feel this gives you the freshest string possible.  It cancels out shelf life and gives you a fresh from the factory feel.  Some initial string noise, I strung up a Silvertone parlor sized guitar and it made the guitar talk.  I couldn’t help but compose a 12-bar blues song on how my dog has no thumbs.  OK maybe if I don’t want to you think I’m crazy, I’ll take that part out.

Daddario EXP17 Coated Phospohor Bronze 13-56
Web:  Street Price: $13
I’ve used D’addario strings most of my playing career.  As always, they have a consistent product.  The EXP17s packed a bright punch.  They accent the subtle transients of one’s playing well.  There was some initial string noise that dulled after I wore the strings in.  Like I mentioned with the Cleartones, I think the air-tight packaging really helps you get the freshest string possible.

DR EXR-12 Extra Life Clear Phos 12-54
Web: Street Price $13
Initially I didn’t care for these, the string noise was obnoxious.  It did go away once the strings wore in a bit.  While I was testing these I noticed DR came out with a new design called K3 coating.  I’m interested to see if this addressed the strings noise.  Once I got got past the noise, these strings turned out to be an enjoyable, mellow sounding set.

Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze 12-53
Web:  Street Price $15
Elixir Strings are the company I first remember doing the coated thing.  These strings are great across the board.  You can play softly or really dig in to make the low end bark.  This was the first set of strings I tested and they show no signs of wearing down, the Elixirs are as fresh as the day I put them on.

GHS IB30L Infinity Bronze 12-54
Web:  Street Price $10
The GHS were the most comfortable strings I tried.  I could play this set for hours without having my fingertips chewed up.  The tone was very mellow.  Not too bright, not too dark.  These had the least amount of initial string noise.  They are the cheapest strings I tried and may be a good stepping stone if you’re looking to test the waters of coated territory.

Martin MSP7100 Lifespan SP Cleartone Coated 12-54
Web:  Street Price $16
Wow.  My favorite strings out of the whole test.  They were the last set I put on, I was feeling a bit worn, but once I got them on I couldn’t put the guitar down.  Open chords were bright and chimed like a grand piano.

My Conclusion

Coated strings do in fact make a difference.  Most guitar strings I try, it’s a week of use and then the honeymoon is over.  My only gripe about these strings is some of them have excessive string noise for the first few days.  I’ll define string noise as the noise you hear when sliding your fingers up and down the neck.  I would suggest these strings to any active guitarist.  If you are only a casual player, truth is oxidation will eventually set in and these strings will die.  However, my string test is over 3 weeks for some guitars and they still feel fresh.


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